Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday morning Question Buffet

I've been reading and enjoying your blog for a long time, and was hoping you'd have time to give me your input on something. This weekend I pitched my novel at (what turned out to be) a practice pitch session. 

The editor I was talking to was very nice, and gave me some great tips about how better to pitch my novel next time. At the end of the session, she said I was "welcome to submit to her" when I was ready to start marketing my novel. 

The question is: Under these circumstances, would it be appropriate to label my query "Requested Material" when I submit? The editor was lovely, and I'd love to work with her, but I didn't know if it was forward to consider that wording a "request."

First, you're not marketing your novel unless you're planning on self-publishing it, and marketing it to readers. You're pitching, submitting, or sending queries for it. I always cringe when people ask me to help them "market" their novels when they want me to consider it for representation. That is NOT marketing.

Second, the editor did not ask you to send materials to her. She said to send her a query. And you're NOT going to do this unless you're planning to not have an agent.

The reason you're not going to do this is because your AGENT will determine who's a good fit for the novel and who's the best editor for you. I'm sure this editor was a perfectly lovely person, but that might not mean she's the right fit for your book. Or you.

An agent, a GOOD agent, doesn't just send books out to a random list of agentseditors! (argh!!!)  We spend a lot of time on submission lists and I'd guess it's probably one of the top ten ongoing topics of conversation in our office (Nos 1, 2 and 3 are food, liquor and pictures of rats.)

Right now you're at the stage where an editor in hand feels a lot more secure than an agent out in the wild, but do NOT send material until you've secured an agent.

I still remember the utter humiliation of pitching a publisher on a project I KNEW was perfect for them, only to find out my client had sent it to them before I came on board.  The editor laughed (sort of) and I laughed (only to mask the screaming) and the client is still hiding under her couch in case I call again.

And if you're absolutely going to ignore this advice and send it anyway, put the name of the conference on the envelope or in the email subject line, and start your email or cover letter with "you helped me with my pitch and said I was welcome to submit when  ready."  If you use the exact words she said, you're covered.

But don't do it. Really.


jack welling said...

Weaseling. I am waiting for the weaseling. (Yes, I turned a noun into a verb. It fit).

You have repeatedly provided advice on the conduct of business in the publishing world of just this sort and each time a stream of writers will nag and equivocate and ... weasel. They'll try and wiggle under the fence of advice and reason and grab the chicken of opportunity.

More metaphors ? Try the shotgun of failure and heartbreak.

There is something lost in a nation that moves from an agricultural society to industrial, post-industrial and finally technological states of commerce. The mass of writers it produces do not have the common sense of tending to chickens and dealing with weasels.

I wait for the weasel parties. I wait for the "but I self-published 634 copies of _Gawdawful_" and doesn't that make me different? I wait.

It already has been a poor morning. It's going to be a long comment pool for you too, dearie.

I hope your holiday includes the following:

"Bobby - be a darling and hand auntie a glass of gin."

Thanks for advice, by the way.

Pamala Knight said...

Thanks for this. This is exactly what we, the great unwashed and unlearned, need to know. I totally appreciate you spelling it out for us.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Anonymous said...

I am so confused. I thought I was supposed to hire editors and pitch to agents? At the one writers' conference I attended, an agent asked me to send her my first 100 pages but it was also suggested to me, by a guest speaker, to have my manuscript edited before I send it out.

Right now you're at the stage where an editor in hand feels a lot more secure than an agent out in the wild, but do NOT send material until you've secured an agent.

From your blog, I guess I was given some bad advice at this conference. Mind you, the editor I hired is doing an amazing job at pointing out some plot problems.

Unknown said...


Thanks VERY much for making this so clear.

Just yesterday I was looking at a writing contest that would be seen by agents and editors/publishing people. As I considered entering I looked each one up and found that the pub folks were open to submissions. I had an itching suspicion that contacting them directly might mess up my plan on eventually finding an agent. Now I know for sure.

For's Agent first.

Anonymous said...

It strikes me that the bigger sin wasn't to pitch to an editor before you became their agent, but to not let you know who had already seen it.

Taymalin said...

AJCAP: You can hire a freelance editor to go over your manuscript and highlight some of the book's problems for you, which is what it sounds like you have already done.

When you're finished your revisions with your freelance editor, then you can submit to agents, who, if they choose to represent you, will submit your work to editors who acquire works for publication.

At least, that is my understanding of how things work. YMMV.